Ancient Chinese oracle bones fetch $5.8 million at auction

Posted: Friday, July 09, 2004

SHANGHAI, China (AP) An anonymous bidder paid the equivalent of $5.8 million at auction Sunday for a 3,000-year-old set of oracle bones, relics that Chinese rulers used to foretell the future, auctioneers said.

The bones, dating from the Shang dynasty, are shards of tortoise shell inscribed with questions about the weather, harvests or whether to go to war. Oracles heated the artifacts over flames and interpreted answers from the shapes of the cracks.

The sale, described as the first of its kind, underscored the growing taste among newly rich Chinese collectors for obscure cultural artifacts.

Bidding at a luxury hotel began at $1 million and rose to the final sale price of $5.8 million in just over five minutes, the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper reported.

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